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Feminism and Islam

(68 Posts)
Vivacia Thu 27-Nov-14 12:49:16

Last night I got chatting to a woman at my evening class. She's a muslim and wears the hijab and niqab because there are male students in the room.

We had a really good talk for about 50 minutes after the class and talked about all sorts of things related to her beliefs, her lifestyle and her experience of being a recent immigrant to our country (I live in an area with very small muslim population, let alone those following the religion as strictly as she chooses to).

We spoke about tonnes, as I say, and my mind's been a whirl since. I'd appreciate thinking this through to get my thoughts straight - so any thoughts, experiences or suggested reading appreciated.

Vivacia Thu 27-Nov-14 13:02:55

I think I was really struck by her description of how women are not allowed to drive in Saudi. Can you imagine growing up in a country where you are told such a loud message about your potential, your place, your role?

I have always had a fairly liberal view of Islam, but the reading I've done since getting home last night has really made me think twice. (Religion was her reason for accepting so much).

For example, I really didn't know that the Koran dictates that women wear hijab. I thought religious dress was an interpretation of the Koran.

EhricLovesTheBhrothers Thu 27-Nov-14 13:11:32

The Koran doesn't dictate that. The line is something like 'let believing women draw their veils across their bosom' or similar. Veil and bosom are subjective concepts, hence why Pakistani women cover very lightly and Saudi women cover a lot. Cultural interpretations.

tethersend Thu 27-Nov-14 13:16:12

I disagree with wearing the hijab, the niqab and other clothing which covers in deference to the male gaze. I disagree with women feeling like they have to dress a certain way in order to repel/attract men- this applies to western dress too.

However, I want to live in a society where there are things I disagree with.

In as much as we can make free choice in a patriarchal society, we should be allowed to. Many Muslim woman choose to cover, others are compelled to by family members- these should be seen as separate issues I think, but debate on both is interesting.

I am firmly against any sort of government legislation which tells women how to dress, and support a Muslim woman's right to cover, even though I may disagree with her reasons for doing so.

OneDayWhenIGrowUp Thu 27-Nov-14 13:36:23

Lurker wading into the feminism boards here!

I have heard different interpretations of the Koranic verses that are supposed to dictate women's dress, especially when it comes to niqab/burqa vs hijab. Disclaimer: definitely not an expert on this, just similarly did some reading around this online after meeting a woman who wears niqab, she's British though.

As far as I remember it is fairly explicitly stated that women should cover their cleavage, but the debate comes about because the words used could imply (depending on translation) that they should cover their cleavage with their headscarf ie there is already an expectation there that they'd be wearing a headscarf, possibly because of the existing cultural norms when the Koran was written?

When you google this you quickly find the same verses used to illustrate both points of view - ie that it is or isn't mandated that hair and/or face should be covered.

There is a fairly offensive verse (to my modern feminist ears) that says women should wear longer clothes so they are not molested.

Prompted by your post I just found the wikipedia entry on Islamic feminism which is very interesting. The section on dress code there describes prominent Islamic feminists supporting France's ban on the hijab.

Vivacia Thu 27-Nov-14 13:37:15

ehric do you have a link for that? I'm sure I found one otherwise.

tehters that was pretty much my stance. But have spoken to this other woman, I wondered how free a decision it is for her - I mean, she's not even allowed out without a man, for no reason than she's female.

This isn't news to me, but it really came home to me last night.

EhricLovesTheBhrothers Thu 27-Nov-14 14:08:58

Not offhand but if you google there is loads on the web, both pro and anti hijab as necessity.
Your acquaintance lives a very strict form of Islam. I know loads and loads of women who go about their lives quite freely including work, driving and uncovering their hair.

tethersend Thu 27-Nov-14 14:17:54

I suppose I feel if covering is legislated against, then the state assumes the role of the oppressor instead of the family, and women's rights still suffer.

I cannot agree with a practice which forbades women from leaving the house alone, although, like Ehric, most Muslim women I know are not subject to those restrictions, although many of them choose to cover.

Vivacia Thu 27-Nov-14 14:37:03

Thanks oneday, we cross posted earlier (supposed to be working!). Will check the link out later.

Hazchem Thu 27-Nov-14 20:10:19

State control of women's dress has come up recently in Australia. I'm with tethersend in that I think if there is legislation on dress it just places control of women in the hands of the state rather then family or culture.

I'd love to know more about Islamic feminism particualry I guess the livedness of being a feminist Muslim. My staunch feminism often feels at odds with my partners religion at a wider level but we don't really disagree on daily or lived things if that makes sense.

Vivacia Thu 27-Nov-14 20:22:35

I posted a fairly long reply earlier, but lost it on the train.

She emphatically believes that men and women are not equal, that women are weaker and need a man to protect them because that is how God created man and woman.

Vivacia Thu 27-Nov-14 20:23:38

I would really like to spend a few hours in town, in the full dress, and see how it feels.

Hazchem Thu 27-Nov-14 22:43:55

Part of me also wants to attend mosque but I'd feel rude as a non believer, I wouldn't attend a church service.

BigPawsBrown Thu 27-Nov-14 22:48:47

Couldn't agree more Tether. My thoughts exactly.

LapsedMuzza Thu 27-Nov-14 22:49:30


LapsedMuzza Thu 27-Nov-14 22:52:40

I am a non-practising Muslim. Feminism and Islam do not go hand in hand in experience. There is a hell of a lot hypocrisy and conflicting info. Depending on which culture/country your family originates from pretty much decides how much you are expected to cover up. As pointed out by previous posters it comes down to interpretation.

beeny Thu 27-Nov-14 23:00:43

I'm a muslim and a criminal barrister. I do not wear a hijaab. I do dress modestly. I don't drink or had any type of sexual relationship until i got married.I do think of myself as a feminist.

LapsedMuzza Thu 27-Nov-14 23:05:59

beeny, it gets on my nerves (to put it politely) is that the onus is on the womenfolk to dress modestly as though men are incapable of controlling themselves.

beeny Thu 27-Nov-14 23:21:56

Actually men are should dress modestly too.But i agree too much hypocrisy in the actual practise of Islam.

grimbletart Thu 27-Nov-14 23:26:51

She emphatically believes that men and women are not equal, that women are weaker and need a man to protect them because that is how God created man and woman.

I would honestly find it difficult to spend a single minute in the company of a woman who thought that. To me that signals such a lack of self respect and self esteem. But I guess not everyone likes to take personal responsibility for their own lives and handing it over to a man is way of avoiding it.

Dontlaugh Fri 28-Nov-14 00:02:46

I honestly think, and feel, that any highly educated woman and organised religion (Islam, Catholicism, CofE etc) do not, and will not, ever mix.
Feminism added to the mix is simply explosive. In a good way!
As a highly educated atheist, I feel a sense of relief that I do not have to justify religious barriers, alongside and in conjunction with, patriarchial and gender barriers.
I am always interested in others experiences and beliefs and always love reading about how women can live alongside their religious beliefs, for many reasons - slight jealousy, fascination and relief among them.

OneDayWhenIGrowUp Fri 28-Nov-14 00:37:19

LapsedMuzza (nice, btw), you say it depends on the culture though? Not, strictly speaking, Islam itself then, rather a patriarchal society's interpretation of it?

EhricLovesTheBhrothers Fri 28-Nov-14 06:13:26

I went to a mosque once, my DS wanted to go and his dad was out of the country. I was going to sit outside the prayer room but they found me a chair and offered for me to sit at the back as long as I covered my hair (I had a scarf anyway so I could)
There were no women there but given the way they treated me I'd say that's due to custom rather than women being banned. Although maybe it was because I wasn't actually praying. They get close together in a line so I can imagine that men and women wouldn't pray next to each other, but they could have separate lines.
I have to say apart from a glance or two when a few men walked in nobody stared or made a big dal of it, most of them didn't even notice me.

mathanxiety Fri 28-Nov-14 06:25:54

DS is doing a degree in a science subject in a US university and many of his fellow students are Muslim women.

Those who cover their hair and generally cover up get a lot of flak from non-Muslim students (I do not think any wear the full face covering). DS recounted one particular incident where a sorority member berated a Muslim girl for accepting her oppression. DS found that more than a bit ironic.

I agree with LapsedMuzza on the whole, but I do not think organised religion has cornered the market when it comes to oppression of women.

University of Virginia and rape.

LapsedMuzza Fri 28-Nov-14 10:30:13

One, most of what I've experienced and witnessed first hand is a guys who set themselves up as 'authorities' on Islam, take quotations of context and don't take kindly to being questioned let alone corrected by a woman. When I was younger I read extensively about Islam. Many of the common practises within the British Indian and Pakistani Muslim communities I grew up surrounded by were at odds with the fundamentals within Islam, yet hardly any women were willing to stand up for themselves as it just wasn't acceptable.

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